Five years after first blazing the trail of online emergency services news and information, Firehouse.com celebrates its anniversary Christmas Day by looking back at some of the most significant events in our community and forward to further serving the needs of first responders worldwide.
"Firehouse.Com was intended to be a combination of a CNN for the fire service and a Yahoo!-like portal of all things emergency services, and I think we've accomplished that for the most part," said Firehouse.Com founder/publisher Dave Iannone, who launched the site in a spare bedroom along with site co-founder Chris Hebert.
"A goal of firehouse.com was to create a site that fit the needs of all members working in emergency services, allowing them a place to go to get all the resources they would need to do their job. A one-stop shop if you will," Hebert said.
The site started out small but quickly became the web's one-stop resource for the fire service. It received 3,500 visitors its first day and now averages 35,000 to 50,000 unique visitors a day, totaling 500,000 unique visitors each month and nearly 10 million page views monthly.
Steve Austin, past President of the Delaware Volunteer Firemen's Association and the Director of Governmental Relations for the International Association of Arson Investigators, said he values Firehouse.com because it allows the tight-knit community of the fire service to communicate with one another.
"Prior to Firehouse.Com, most of the information that one gleaned came from trade periodicals, which are still important, but no one was able to supply daily information," Austin said. "You're able to improve the communication and add to the understanding of what we're all about as firefighters."
"If you're not looking at Firehouse.Com at least once a day," Austin said, "you're probably missing a lot of what's going on in the fire service and probably around the world."
Austin added that prior to Firehouse.Com, firefighter fatality notices were only heard by word of mouth or through monthly publications, but now such information is immediately available nationwide.
And it isn't only the tragedies that Firehouse.Com brings to light.
"It's also all the good things - people's triumphs and rescues and things that make people proud to be rescuers," Austin said. "The site has given us a better opportunity to look into ourselves, to understand why we do the things we do, and if we can do some things better."
Firehouse.com stepped to the forefront of breaking news coverage in the fire service after the Dec. 3, 1999 Worcester Cold Storage blaze that claimed the lives of six firefighters -- the largest loss of firefighters' lives in decades in a structural fire.
Within an hour of the fire, Firehouse.com began five days of total coverage, including on the scene reports, photos, and personal stories. Thousands of condolences poured in from around the world.
Sadly, it would not be the saddest day for America's fire service. But Firehouse.com has been there are the central point for the world's firefighters whether it be good, bad, sad, or ugly.